The Jinhao 599, oh how familiar you look. Perhaps this pen reminds you, ever so slightly, of a rather famous pen from a rather famous company that rhymes with Shlamy.
Indeed, the Jinhao 599 is a knock-off of the Lamy Safari (or Lamy Al-Star, if you’re looking at the metal kind), much like the Hero Safari. The Jinhao 599 is an all-plastic or all-metal pen that comes with a converter. It looks exactly like a Lamy Safari–ink window and all–except for the clip and the nib. Where the clip on the Safari looks like a paperclip, the Jinhao’s clip kinda looks like a… thing. I don’t know. Like a spoon handle with the middle cut out? Something like that. The nib looks like a normal nib, unlike the Lamy’s triangle… thing, unless you get the hooded nib, in which it looks like any other pen with a hooded nib.
The Jinhao 599 is approximately 5 1/2 inches (14 cm) capped, and 5 inches (13 cm) uncapped. Capping the pen results in a very satisfying click. The cap also posts quite securely, but I do not use my pens posted and I also find that the balance is not quite right. This is not a particularly heavy pen, especially because it is made of plastic. It feels really nice in hand, actually. I don’t think it feels cheap at all.You’re probably rolling your eyes at me like, “Ugh, P, why do you keep torturing me with these horrible, China-made, crappy pens?” Obviously, a $3 pen is not going to be perfect. The converter sometimes leaks behind the piston. Ink sometimes gets into the grip somehow, and there is literally no way to wash it out (although it does not seem to have tainted anything–yet). The nib comes in only one size (medium) which writes exactly like a medium. You may need to tune the nib before it decides to behave. In fact, my pen did all of these things when I received it. Yet I believe that the pros of the Jinhao 599 certainly outweigh the cons. It costs $4 max. The nib (at least, my nib) is really good after I gave it a good floss (flossing is when you slide a thin material–such as plastic–between the tines to loosen them up a wee bit, thus allowing ink to flow better). The plastic feels very, very sturdy in hand. It’s quite thick, and I’ve already dropped it approximately a million times. Nothin’. The feed and nib are friction fit, which means you can yank them both out for a good clean. The converter disassembles completely, which means you can get ink out of all the corners with a cotton swab. Did I mention that this pen costs $4. Right. You can buy twelve of these pens for something like $30. That’s incredible.Consider this scenario: you are new-ish to fountain pens, and you’d like to upgrade past $5 pens. You are a stronger person now, and with a fresh, $50 bill in your pocket, you want to buy a deluxe pen. Yes. Deluxe. You spot the Lamy Safari (considering the number of mentions it receives from the fountain pen community, you’d honestly have to wear blinders to not see it!) and you think, “Gosh. This pen looks great! Love the design, love how I can swap out nibs, love–oh. Well.” You spot the triangular grip. You are terrified of the triangular grip. Perhaps you hold your pen like it has a 90% chance of just flying out of your hand, never to be seen again. Perhaps you are very much against the concept of a pen telling you how to hold it. You like the Lamy Safari, but you really don’t want to blow $30 on a pen, plus $5 on a converter, you might hate. You can buy 35 tacos from Taco Bell for $35, did you know that? You have no stores that sell fountain pens around you, and there’s no way you can get a Lamy Safari in hand to see if your terrible, awful fingers will play nice for once and fit in that now-monstrous triangular grip.
So you buy the Jinhao 599. Seriously. This sounds ridiculous, but you should really consider it. I already have a pen with the Lamy Triangle Grip of Wariness so I knew I’d find it vaguely comfortable, but I know some people may not have this luxury. Spend $4 total (seriously, pen + shipping and handling), maximum, to get one of these pens and see if you like it. Maybe, just maybe, if the stars and planets align, you’ll find that you saved something like $36 dollars instead. Or maybe you hate it, and you save $36 anyway, and you toss the pen into the trash can or onto a friend, and you waste $4 you could’ve spent at Starbucks. It’s your hypothetical scenario, not mine!
Here’s a writing sample:
I don’t believe any specific store sells the Jinhao 599. It comes in a multitude of colors in both plastic (green! orange! white! blue! black! red! yellow transparent! opaque! too many exclamation marks!) and metal (goldenrod! blue! black! probably other colors!), as hooded nibs or “normal” nibs, and as ballpoints. Seriously, make sure you look at the pictures carefully when you trawl eBay for these pens. Good luck!
[Edit 8/25/14] His Nibs now sells these pens (apparently they’re called Ebony Jewels)! They will go a little more expensive than you’ll find on eBay, but that’s because the fine folk over at His Nibs make sure to service your pen before they send it out. If you’re a little wary of eBay, you should consider purchasing from them!
I am not at all affiliated with His Nibs, but I have purchased from the store before and their service was great!